American University of Beirut

University Libraries


    About Us

    ​The University Libraries (UL) consist of: Nami Jafet Memorial Library as the main library, and the following subject libraries: the Engineering and Architecture Library, the Saab Memorial Medical Library, and the Science and Agriculture Library, with its annex library at the Agricultural Research and Education Center (AREC) in the Beqa'a Valley. These libraries are home to one of the world’s largest and finest collections related to Lebanese, Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern studies. The libraries are also home to the largest collection of English language material in the Arab world and to sizeable collections in all the subject areas in which the university offers degree programs.

    ​The collections consist +500,000 print books and +5,600 print periodicals (2,000 in Arabic) in around 160,000 volumes. The libraries also own +1,700,000 electronic books and provide access to +180,000 electronic periodicals and 800 journals on microfilm (600 in Arabic). The Libraries currently subscribe to almost 400 databases. There are about 1,000,000 audiovisual items of all formats, the majority of which are microforms of a substantial number of local and regional journals and newspapers going back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    The Archives and Special Collections contain 2,496 linear feet of archival material, +2,000 manuscripts, most of which are in Arabic and some are uniquely and/or rarely held resources, +12,000 theses, projects, and dissertations going back to the early 20th century, +7,400 posters, 800 postcards, and +2,000 maps, as well as 100,000 photographs (including over 20,000 negatives), of a unique and historical nature. These print and electronic collections are developed and enriched on a regular basis to support the academic and research programs of the University.

    The University Libraries employ 33 professional staff (majority with master’s degree or higher), 41 support staff (34 with college degrees), and 24 student assistants.

    More than 2 million people visit the University Libraries per year and over 300,000 visit its main website. The University Libraries circulate or renew approximately 13,000 per year and provide instruction sessions to over 5,800 students and faculty. Jafet Library opens 109 hours per week and 24/7 during reading and exam periods.



    The University Libraries are the intellectual hub of AUB. They develop, manage, and provide access to distinctive collections, services, and facilities in order to advance the research, teaching, and learning of the scholarly and clinical communities at the University and beyond.


    The University Libraries seeks to be the information and research destination of choice committed to supporting lifelong learning and scholarship; providing a welcoming, resource‐rich, innovative, and stimulating environment; embracing collaborative opportunities; and to cultivating a technologically‐enhanced, user‐centered setting for the discovery, creation, organization, preservation, and communication of knowledge.

    Way Forward

    We strive to provide comprehensive and high quality library resources and services to help the University fulfill its mission of providing excellence in education, participating in the advancement of knowledge through research, and serving the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. To become a strategic asset for the University and to be able to provide outstanding collections, inspiring learning experiences, and essential expertise, we will need to address or focus on four priorities: research and collections, teaching and learning, outreach, and organizational culture and effectiveness. Note that the library space problem is emphasized in several areas within these priorities.​​



    The first reference to the library was in the SPC Faculty minutes dated November 1, 1867 which stated that a faculty meeting was held at the College Library. However, the library was officially established as an entity in 1870 as a result of the enthusiasm of Professor Porter, who joined the faculty as chair of the history department, four years after instruction had started. The Library’s development was very slow during the early years. Yet, by 1882, Professor Porter had built up a collection of about 2,300 volumes.​​

    From the time College Hall was built, the Library occupied a large room in the northeast corner of the ground floor which has since been converted into two classrooms. Students and faculty profited by being able to use the Library of the Theological School which was at that time located in Jesup Hall. In 1891, when Jesup Hall was given up as the home of the Theological School, a proposal was made that the Libraries be amalgamated. This was not done, although for a period of about ten years the Theological School library was housed in the same room and administered by the A.U.B. Library staff. Also in 1891, for the first time, Professor Porter had an assistant. 

    Mr. Shukry Maloof was assistant librarian from 1891-1900, and although Professor Porter remained responsible for the Library he took less of an active part in the work. This decade was also the first period of real growth of the collection. In 1891 the Library numbered 3,000 books and by 1903 the number was almost 15,000, a fairly rapid increase.

    In the year 1891 the present Chapel was opened and the Library was moved to more spacious quarters in the former assembly hall on the second floor of College Hall at the east end of the building. The library remained in this location until 1951 when the collections were moved to ​the Jafet Memorial Library building.

    In 1891 the Library room on the second floor of the College Hall was divided into thirds. The north third was stack space for books, the center third was reading room, the south third was the University herbarium. The physical expansion of the Library was slow but steady after the move to the second floor of College Hall. On the completion of Post Hall the herbarium was moved to that building and the entire remaining space was devoted to the Library.

    By 1910 the room directly opposite the top of the stairs was used as an office. It contained the circulation desk at the time the Library was finally moved out of College Hall in 1951. Every two or three years after that, another room was added until by 1926 there was no remaining space on that floor for student dormitories. The Library stacks were removed from the north end of the original room to the corridor, making the entire large room available as a reading room. At this time the statue of Daniel Bliss, which is now (1952) at the south end of the main reading room in Jafet Library, stood at the south end of the Library reading room.

    During the Second World War the continued growth of the Library made it necessary once again to take back a part of the reading room as stack space. At this time the Bliss statue was moved to the north end of the room and the stacks were placed along the south. Student study space was f​ighting a losing battle against the encroaching tide of books. Such was the physical situation of the Library when it was moved in the fall of 1951.

    In 1901 Shukry Maloof was replaced as Assistant Librarian by Shukry Kassab, who remained until 1909. In 1910, Professor Porter gave up the librarianship, after holding it for 40 years, to devote his full time to teaching, and Charles R. Carhart became Librarian. In 1911 Mulhim Bitar, who was still a member of the Library staff (1952), joined Mr. Carhart as Assistant Librarian. Mr. Carhart was replaced in 1913 by Ida R. Burtnett who remained only for two years, leaving Mr. Bitar as Acting Librarian during the years of the First World War.

    Growth of the book collections was very slow during the fifteen year period preceding the end of the First World War, and by 1918 the collections numbered only 18,000 volumes. Mrs. Emma R. Nickoley became the Librarian in 1919. Since that time the growth of the collections has been both steady and rapid. By 1932 there were 39,000 volumes and seven years later, in 1939, this figure had reached almost 68,000. It is now (1952) approximately 80,000. Mrs. Nickoley was replaced as Librarian in 1926 by Mrs. Edith Laird who served in that capacity until the move to the Jafet Library building in 1951, when David Wilder was appointed University Librarian. Mrs. Laird remained on the staff in charge of the library cataloging work.

    In 1925, books in the field of medicine were moved to a branch library in Van Dyck Hall and Miss Burtnett returned to the University to serve from 1925 to 1931 as Medical Librarian. She was replaced by Lela Crump from 1931 to 1933 and she in turn by Mrs. Anne Ayvaz who then returned to service on the staff of the University Library. The medical librarianship had been held since 1940 by Mrs. Araxie Sarrafian.

    In 1932, a Branch Library was set-up in the Preparatory School. The first Librarian was Mr. Munir Sadah, then Mrs. Melia Kan’an. Prior to the opening of the Jafet Library it had also been necessary to set up in West Hall a Branch Library for the Intermediate Section.

    Through the years, development of the library book collection to its present level (1952) has been made possible by many gifts similar to that given over a number of years by the late Mrs. Cleveland Dodge. Several early members of the faculty were generous with books and magazines which they had collected. It is astonishing to see the number of books donated by Porter for example. In the early 1930’s, $ 6,000 was received from the Carnegie Foundation to buy books in all areas of study which did much to fill the basic needs of the Library. In 1933, the Arab Studies collection in the Library was enriched by the addition of several thousand volumes bequeathed to the University by one of its distinguished Alumni and friends, the late Mr. Sulayman Abu Izz-ed-Din.

    After the death of Edward F. Nickoley in 1936, his wife presented his fine library to the Univer- sity to strengthen the social sciences. With Mrs. Nickoley’s kind permission the “Nickoley Library”, which was formerly housed separately in the Social Science Building, was incorporated in the central collection in the Jafet Memorial Library.​

    There was also a rapid development of the field of Arab Studies through the generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation. Until 1952 this growing and valuable collection of books had not had adequate space in which to be housed or used. The magnificent gift, therefore, of a new building by the wife and children of Nami Jafet, did much to make possible the preservation, expansion and use of there valuable collections.​​

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